Bearded Dragon Enclosure




About: I've built houses, decks, custom cabinets, furniture of all types. Ive done furniture repair and restoration, residential and commercial remodels, restaurant seating and tables and hotel furniture. Ive been ...

I bought my fiancé a bearded dragon 3 years ago. I built his enclosure for him and it has served well. The enclosure is 4' wide and 2' deep 2' tall. This is an ideal size for a fully grown adult (normal) bearded dragon. However Goliath is far from normal. He has a thing for the living room window. He loves laying on a pillow on the window sill and wanders around the living room. Sometimes he will lay behind my PS3 and take a nap. He sleeps in his cage at night and will bask on his rock in the morning but by early afternoon he is scratching on his doors. When we slide them open, he crawls out and up the ramp to the window sill, where he just stares outside all day. We even purchased a second UVB bulb for basking while outside his cage. His enclosure has become nothing more than a bedroom for him. So the fiancé and I decided to shrink it down a bit to save some space.
PLEASE NOTE: The proper sized enclosure for an adult bearded dragon 8 square feet and at least 8-10" of distance from the bottom of the heat bulb.
In this step by step, I am dis-assembling the old one and using that material to make a smaller enclosure (about half size.)
I have included Sketch-up plans for the large version and smaller version of this Enclosure. You could easily change any dimension that you would need, to suit your pet.

Sketch-up plans for the smaller enclosure 30"X24"X24"
Sketch-up plans for the larger enclosure is 48"X24"X24"

Step 1: Dis-assemble or Gather Your Materials

I started by removing the decoration and the basking shelf. Then I removed the poultry fabric top and the Plexiglas doors with the slide rails.
Once I dis-assembled the entire enclosure I cut the bottom panel to size. The sides did not need to be cut.
I did have to peel off a bunch of old tile and glue blotches. This material has been re-used quite a bit. It's looking a bit rough so the end result is going to be more function than looks. Later on, I can put molding on this unit and paint it if I need to, but for now it is fine.
This unit can be made with a half sheet of ply-wood (and some extra shop scraps for the horizontal beams on top and in front.) I recommend 1/2" but the sketch-up plans use 3/4" It is all ply-wood except, the slide rails for the doors and the doors of course.
Material list (if buying new)
  • 1 sheet 1/2" Baltic birch ply-wood
  • 3/4"X1"X8' poplar
  • 2- 1/8"-1/4" Plexiglas 15 1/2"X17"
  • 1/4" hole Poultry fabric for the top
  • 1-1/4" screws (I used drywall screws, they may not be that strong for structure assembly but I can compensate that weakness with numbers!)
Tool list (What I used)
  • Cordless drill and cordless screw-gun
  • Table-saw
  • Crosscut sled
  • Tin-snips (for cutting the poultry fabric)

Step 2: Cut the Bottom and Back Panel

I had to cut the bottom panel and the back panel first. After these are cut to the same width, I screwed them together. I also had to cut the horizontal front and top beams to the same width as the back and bottom panel. I decided to use the better looking sides of plywood for the inside of the enclosure. I will later fill any holes and paint the outside. I also kept the floor tile on the bottom panel, this makes it easy to keep clean.

Step 3: Begin Assembly

Once the bottom and back panel are screwed together I attached the side panels. Nothing real special here, they are just screwed in to the bottom and back panel.

At this point, it’s a good idea to drill a couple vent holes in the bottom sides or back. Nothing big is needed, the top is completely open so a little hole in the bottom will pull plenty of fresh air in (physics).

I added a basking shelf at this point. The shelf is optional and will give a cooler area for your beardy to go hide and sleep in. My shelf goes across the entire width of the enclosure and about half deep.

Step 4: Cut and Install the Sliding Doors

Using the same dimensions as your front and top horizontal beams. Cut 2 sticks of 3/4" X1" Poplar and using the table saw cut 1/4" grooves that will allow the Plexiglas doors to slide freely in. Then using a spring clamp hold the slide rails in position and pre-drill and countersink a hole on each end of the sticks, then attach the rails at one side only (the same side) with screws.

Now measure the width of the opening and divide it in half, then add 3/4" and you have the proper width for each door. Then, while the rails are screwed in at one end measure the height. Remember, you want a little bit of play on the height dimension to ensure easy sliding and no binding of the doors.

Then simply slide each Plexiglas panel in different grooves. Slide them all the way to the side that is screwed in and push the rails flush with the front and screw that side into the front frame.

Step 5: Finish It

The last thing I did was screw the poultry fabric to the top. I used tin snips to cut it to proper size.
Once this is done I sanded any sharp corners inside the enclosure and vacuumed the inside. Then a final wipe down with a damp rag.
Place his rocks and decorations, then install the heat and UVB lamp.
The outside is not pretty. I will later on add molding and fill the holes and screw dings then paint it.

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18 Discussions


2 years ago

Can you tell me safe woods to use on an enclosure and stains/sealers? We are about to make our cage, but do not want to use anything that would be toxic, especially once it warms up under the bulbs.

2 replies

Reply 2 years ago

Hello angeliaT, safe wood would be a standard birch plywood, pine, oak, maple are all safe. The rule to follow is to stay away from anything "exotic". This will depend on where you are from of course and I'm going to assume that you are from North America. Your local home store should have a lot of lumber that is safe to choose from stuff o stay away from would be pressure treated lumber. This is for outdoor use and has chemicals added to it. A great option for the inside would be a white laminated chipboard. It has a Formica coating so it's extremely durable and very easy to clean up. The problem would be making it look pretty on the outside. That requires laminating veneer or Formica on top to cover the guy exposed edges of the chip board/particle board.

Almost any finish is going to be safe for the inside of the enclosure once it has cured completely. Before I put my beardie in the enclosure, I left it completely open with a fan blowing inside to circulate. Then after a day or so, I removed the fan and closed the enclosure, turned on the lights and left it that way for several hours. Then stuck my head in to take a sniff. If it smells like paint or finish, it's not ready. Keep the fan going until no odor is present. Drying time will depend on environmental conditions, humidity, airflow etc... A full week is an average target time for drying...

Some suggestions for finish would be a waterbased polyurethane, it's low odor, fast drying, durable and easy to clean up.. But keep in mind you can also use a waterbased paint. I would suggest a milk paint with a waterbased polyurethane top coat. If you choose to stain the inside, you simply let the stain dry, then apply a waterbased top coat.
Hope this helps. :)


3 years ago

Hi I'm getting a bearded dragon on Tuesday and I was going to get a wooden cage for it but I've been told that it won't last it will get moist and really smell and that I'm better off with a glass one.. is this correct ?

1 reply

3 years ago on Introduction

I am totally going to use this! I have a TV cabinet that I am going to modify with these plans for my beardie. What did you use for the substrate?

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

excluding the lighting and cage decor, a sheet of 1/2" plywood and the cost of the plexi.

I would guess around 75-100.


Awesome! Please take pic so I can see. You could also make your own instructable! That would be even better!


5 years ago

Thanks for this instructable, you motivate me to post a description of the building of my own. I used porocell(stoyopor called here in austria), heat and sand to model backwalls like stone shapes. My 2 dragons are inside all year, it can get fairly cold here sometimes ;-)

1 reply

5 years ago on Introduction

What a great idea! And Goliath is very nice looking :) How does the heat retention on the new one without tiled walls compare to the old one? I'm always trying to figure out how to best insulate my tanks.

2 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Thank you. I don't think Insulation is really needed. This enclosure is in a climate controlled room. This being the case, you only need to provide your beardie a hot basking spot, A UVB light and a cool spot so he can escape the heat if he/she wants to and allow plenty of ventilation for the enclosure. The basking rock will get up to 105 degrees F, the side with the UVB is around 80-85,and the area under the shelf is 68-70.
he sleeps in a blanket on the bottom. Wood is an excellent insulator though.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I can see why it wouldn't be for most people. I live in south Texas so usually it's not cold enough to put the heat on almost ever, but it can be a little chilly in the winter sometimes so I like to have well-insulated tanks. My critters are hermit crabs and I guess their needs are significantly different than a beardie's... but, if I ever go back to reptile keeping I'll reference your Instructable for building a cool custom house. Thanks for all the info!


5 years ago

Thanks for this! My cats broke the glass of my bearded dragons den, in a high-speed chase, and I need to make it. Most people avocate glass at all times. But I'll get in a wooden one now... and maybe make a whole new one in my new house next year.

1 reply

Glass is nice and is very pretty but It's costly to do it right.. I have planned to make one outta glass and or plexiglass with nice wooden framework and fancy woodworking joints. It's just too expensive as compared to a half sheet of 1/2" plywood.